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Marc Buergi is a fellow in the Office of Public Affairs at the International Trade Administration
U.S. Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez led Commerce’s delegation to this year’s Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF) in Cali, Colombia, October 24-26.
Sánchez’s participation underscored the U.S. government’s commitment to enhance the competitiveness of the Americas – a region that is vital to the U.S. economy. With Mexico and Canada, it not only includes two of our three largest trading partners, but also some of our key trade agreement partners, including the host country Colombia.
The Obama administration and the Commerce Department are firmly committed to strengthening U.S. trade within the Western Hemisphere. At the 2012 Summit of the Americas, President Obama announced a number of initiatives designed to enhance this important trade relationship. These included the 100,000 Strong Initiative to expand student education exchanges; and the creation of the Innovation Fund of the Americas that increases access to export financing thereby expanding trade opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises.
In Cali, Sánchez reported on the strong efforts of all U.S. government agencies to advance these initiatives.
The ACF, first held in 2007, tries to improve the region’s competitiveness through innovation, entrepreneurship, public-private partnership and mutual engagement. Hundreds of representatives from the region’s public and private sector participated in a continental dialogue on competitiveness. Among the numerous guests were heads of state, ministers of economy, commerce, trade and industry, and leaders from academia, civil society, and business.
This year’s ACF helped further develop the goals established at last year’s Forum in the Dominican Republic: In 2011, the “Santo Domingo Consensus” set forth 10 objectives to promote progress toward a more competitive and prosperous region in areas like education, infrastructure, and trade liberalization.
The participants of this year’s ACF learned about the progress and experiences the countries made in adopting the 10 principles: At the opening event of the Forum, the Inter-American Competitiveness Network presented its report “Signs of Competitiveness of the Americas.”
The ACF featured several collateral events, including a business ethics workshop focused on the medical device industry in the Americas, a higher education forum focused on STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and a closed door meeting of ministers of trade, commerce and industry.
Commerce is looking forward to helping deliver on the action items put forward at this important event.